Plainfield Road is divided into two Blocks. Our block - upper-Plainfield - has some of the nicest people in this world. Some of the friendliest; some of the shyest, or most retiring. They are what you would call the "better class." Don't you think that a street takes on character, just as a section of country takes on a dialect, mannerisms; and political whims? There are conservative old families, who have lived here 24 and 25 years - and that is a long time in a new village. I remember when Plainfield Road was just a direct road through a forest (just a little forest). The early residents are fine, solid citizens, who cast a tolerant smile and a beneficent influence over the vivacious and vociferous newcomers. The older neighbor women help raise the little children all around them. Our good, warm-hearted Irish neighbor, next door south, leader of our block, is childless. But she lets all the neighborhood children walk on her fascinating, up-and-down stone wall, and have dandy Junior Commando parties in her back yard. (And we have the finest Commandoes in town). Lovely Miss Ann Horton, who was my supervisor in Art, 'way back in 1817-19, is the last word in culture and refinement, but she cam quietly and took mother's laundry home and did it during Dad's and Clarence's illness last winter.
Three enterprising young mothers take care of each other's children on cleaning days and special days, and invite the busy mother in for a quick lunch. Two white-haired married sisters, in their late 60's or early 70's, living side by side, gave a galloping breakfast for the Block women one morning. And what a breakfast! Plain rolls, cinnamon rolls, crullers, apricot and raspberry tarts, fried cakes, cookies - all home-made. Do you know what a galloping breakfast is? It's the nicest way in the world to get acquainted with your women neighbors. There is no advance warning. A female Paul Revere (on foot) comes to your door, snatches you away from the ironing board, or out of the scrub pail, and bids you come, just as you are, to a "breakfast" - of coffee and rolls - at a certain house. You pay a quarter for the breakfast, and a fine of ten cents for every alteration in your costume, coiffure, or make-up. Our Irish "captain" was caught in bed, and had to pay 90c in fines alone. All this goes, of course, to a good cause: helping our soldiers - both the well and the wounded. But, what about the men, I said. No meetings, no breakfasts, no teas, no parties for them. (No shelling out the shekels, either). And then I discovered that a lot of the men didn't even know each other. Two men, living three doors apart for eleven years, had never met. That cliff-dwelling condition had to be remedied.
Our Irish and German gentlemen neighbors put up the cable bearing bright lights - from house to garage. One woman fixed 28 oranges (one apiece; they were fallen apples, wrapped in orange crepe paper), each containing a number matching that worn by a guest - entitling that person to a prize. (Cost 10c). These "oranges" were hung on Mother's magnolia tree. Another committee member collected and wrapped these "white elephants" - and a few choice pieces to be auctioned off. Another planned the refreshments, coffee, free, lemonade, two cents a glass. Each lady's box was auctioned off to the highest bidder, who was assured in the printed invitation that the limit was 50c. (Each man paid 50c). They say (or at least Aunt Caroline used to say), "A fool and his money are soon parted." So I tried to have the men make fools of themselves, and also part with their money.
The first game was a "get-acquainted" game. Seat the guests in a circle. Each, in turn, announces his full name. Take two golden wands (Two birch rods will do); point them simultaneously at two people. Each must try to say the other person's name first. Imagine Claude Manchester and Cecilia Borchert, who have never met before, struggling with each other's full name. The slow one puts a penny in the Victory Pot. Try it some time if you want to raise money and a Lallabaloo. The men were tested for good table manners (racing with peas on a fork), for their ability to bring home the beans (in hats), if not the bacon. And for proof of good fatherhood, the women thoroughly enjoyed watching their husbands hang wet "diapers" on the line (small muslin squares, freshly dipped). The men were judged for speed and neatness. The women had their rounds, too - as well as assisting the men in their efforts to get nowhere fast.
After the auction, each man hunted up his partner, and sat with her, but we pooled the contents of the boxes - in a great array of tempting food on the long picnic table (three put together). One race that sent shrieks of laughter out into the night was the penny match-box race at the table. Take the outer frame of the match-box; fit it over your nose; pass it on to the nose beside you - and thus on down the line. No fair using hands - except to retrieve a falling box. The losing side forfeited a penny apiece. Oh, yes, every game carried its fines and penalties. We raised $16.50 that short and gay summer evening.
Yours for a swift victory,
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 9/14/44 - This Younger Generation!
BY-WAYS Table of Contents